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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Strike threat on china clay cuts
China clay pit
Imerys is the largest employer in Cornwall with about 2000 workers
China clay workers in Cornwall are threatening to take industrial action over plans by Imerys to axe up to 700 jobs.

Two mass meetings of union members voted unanimously to take action and the unions are also planning a protest march in St Austell.

Imerys blames high energy prices, a weak dollar and strong overseas competition for the cuts.

Union members are angry over the pay-off terms put forward by Imerys.

Imerys is to close one of its seven china clay pits in the St Austell area.

One refinery and two drying units will also be closed in Cornwall and a pit at Lee Moor, north of Plymouth in Devon, will also close, along with the refinery and drying unit.

China clay, or kaolin is used to whiten and give a glossy coating to paper, but Imerys is transferring some of its production to Brazil.

Our members are desperate and the company is not listening
Jenny Formby, T&G

The Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) claims payments for long-serving staff will average about 13,000, but Imerys insists the figure could be nearer 18,000.

French firm Imerys employs about 2,000 staff in the region and is Cornwall's largest private employer.

Senior shop steward Tony Lobb, who has been with Imerys for 30 years, said he would be getting 15-17,000 redundancy payment.

"Ten years ago someone like me would have gone out with at least 30-35,000," he said.

"I have been loyal, but they are not going to reward me with the amounts of money they should be. It's putrid."

Jenny Formby, national secretary of the T&G, said that unions in France were also being consulted on industrial action over the lay-offs.

She said: "Our members are desperate and the company is not listening."

Ashley Shopland, director of Imerys, said there had been eight formal consultations with the unions, jobs losses had been reduced by 25% since they were first announced and an extra 1m had been offered in redundancy payments.

He said: "This is a time for cool heads.

"To create more disruption for a company that is already struggling in financial terms can only put in jeopardy the future sustainability of the business and those jobs we wish to retain."

Industry behind Cornish moonscape
29 Sep 06 |  Cornwall
China clay job cuts talks resume
12 Sep 06 |  Cornwall
Reduction in china clay job cuts
14 Aug 06 |  Cornwall
China clay pit closure announced
28 Jul 06 |  Cornwall
Clay firm job cuts could hit 800
04 Jul 06 |  Cornwall

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